The Ultimate SEO Guide for 2023

The new year is coming, and by now you’re probably wondering if you are well on track with your website and SEO strategy. Or this year, you really want to make it happen to finally make it to the top of that first page…

In this guide, we’ll give you the ins and outs of content & technical SEO, our experts’ vision on how to set yourself up for success in the new year, what to pay attention to and what to avoid in 2023!

SEO is constantly innovating, and sometimes it remains difficult to assess the effect of the latest trends and updates. Even marketers often struggle to keep up with the Google algorithm that can make or break their efforts. Get ready! Because we have the Christmas present you’ve been longing for!  Our SEO experts are going to give you their two cents about SEO in 2023, and will give you actionable insights to skyrocket your way to the top of the SERPs!

START OFF WITH AN SEO CHECK

Getting ready for next year also means completing the things you already wanted to finish. Perhaps there are still things you’ve forgotten or overlooked. Additionally, it’s always good to re-check some of your past optimizations; are there any actions that might need another freshening up, or you might have done differently now? Or you may be a beginner in the field of SEO and plan to start working on a brand-new strategy in the coming year. All of these cases have one main thing in common: it is of vital importance to make sure you start 2023 with a clean slate, so make sure to set aside some time in your schedule to go through and finish this SEO checklist.

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“Always make sure the basics are in order, or else you won’t have the opportunity to rank. For starters, my advice is to always make sure that you are starting with a good baseline, so you don’t have to pay as much attention to this in later stages. After that, it’s important to identify your value proposition and expertise as a company, so you can start writing helpful content about it.” 

Pim Razenberg, SEO Expert

SEO Basics

  • Create a Robots.txt file                                      
  • Make sure your website is indexable         
  • Find the right SEO tools for the coming year           

Keyword Research

  • Identify your competitors
  • Identify industry leaders
  • Find various long-tail keyword combinations
  • Create a keyword overview 
  • Perform a keyword gap analysis 
  • Select your core/focus keywords
  • Analyze the intent on the pages that rank

Technical SEO

  • Inspect your URLs 
  • Always use HTTPS protocols
  • Check crawlability 
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
  • Check your loading speed
  • Check for redirection chains (3xx)
  • Check for broken links (4xx)
  • Check for server errors (5xx)
  • Make sure you have a clean site structure 
  • Generate and submit a sitemap              

On-Page and Content

  • Check duplicate content on your website
  • Header hierarchy: structure your content (H1, H2,H3)
  • Fix duplicate title tags
  • Fix missing meta descriptions (155-160 characters+ add one keyword)
  • Optimize images for SEO, think of the right image sizes 
  • Organize topic clusters 
  • Use your data to further narrow down focus areas & opportunities
  • Check/place canonical tags
  • Refresh existing/outdated content
  • Answer the question in your content ‘People also ask’
  • Use the helpful content rules of thumb when writing content

Off-Page SEO 

  • Analyze your competitor’s profile
  • Find incoming bad links
  • Target your competitors’ broken backlinks 
  • Consider Digital PR 
  • Correct distribution of links to different pages
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“I predict that Google will decrease crawl budgets to websites even further in 2023, which means companies will have to focus heavily on optimizing their websites and making only pages indexable that really matter.”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO 

LEADING TOOLS 2023

To get on top of your SEO, you’ll of course need top-notch tools as well, to make sure you can analyze every last inch of your competitors. We’ve compiled a list of tools that will help you level up your SEO practices in the new year.

SEO Tools to use:

  • Google Search Console
  • Screaming Frog
  • Google Analytics
  • Semrush
  • Ahrefs
  • Google ‘People also ask’
  • Moz
  • OpenAI’s ChatGPT

Read more about our favorite SEO tools for 2023!

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I love Google Search Console, it is in my honest opinion the best SEO tool available. First of all, it will show you immediately how visible you are in relation to your audience and where the big opportunities are. In addition to this, it also makes clear how your website is performing in the search engine and how much of your website Google actually views (crawls).”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO 

CONTENT IS KEY IN 2023

It is becoming more important than ever to create original content and beat your competitors by showcasing your expertise. Especially heading toward 2023, it is an absolute no-go, to write content that does not add value to visitors. We’re going to discuss a number of updates that will be influential while optimizing your strategy for 2023. So, let’s kick off by talking about the launch of the Open AI chatbot!

Open AI chat

With the launch of the open AI chatbot, there is definitely something happening in the world of SEO. But what is this chat that everyone is talking about, and what will be the impact on the future?

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“Open AI chat is going to change the whole SEO market, you should not blindly copy content through this chat, because creativity is needed, but it can certainly help to get ideas. You could put some keywords in there, and AI can sort it by intent.”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO

The open AI (artificial intelligence) chat is a chatbot created to optimize interacting with humans as naturally as possible. The chatbot can take directions and accomplish tasks like writing content. I know what you’re, thinking… will this mean the end of man-made written content? Well, we don’t think so. The open AI chat is a tool you can use to make it a lot easier and more efficient to write content.

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“From my perspective, you should use tools for inspiration. Creativity remains very important because AI can only create things that are already on the internet, it can’t create something that’s in your mind.”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO

But enough about the future, let’s take a brief dive into the SEO-history books!

GOOGLE UPDATES & THEIR IMPACT ON CONTENT SEO

A few years ago, many webmasters used black-hat keyword stuffing techniques, such as hiding the keywords in invisible text or in the website’s code. At that time, it was less important to write powerful content that was truly valuable to readers. The content was written more from the perspective of getting the website to rank higher, then to supply a pleasant user experience. But times change, and so does Google! These unsavory methods of sneakily stuffing your website with keywords now not only don’t work, but even result in huge penalties! Because, as with all black-hat tricks, eventually Google found out and adjusted its algorithms. Now let’s go through a few of these big upsets in the algorithm!

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“Google is also going to use more tools to understand content much better, which means that by 2023 they will index paragraphs much more often and show only those instead of an entire page.”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO

THE BERT UPDATE

In 2019, Google implemented a significant update to its algorithm: BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). This update brought with it huge improvements in Google’s understanding of natural language. Such as the context of language and the meaning of words and phrases. After this update, Google started paying more attention to a natural way of writing the content on your website. In response to the BERT update, Google again came out with another update that had even more of an effect. In the next paragraphs, we discuss the effect of this new update, and the transformation in SEO this update might bring in the future… but first the MUM update!

THE MUM UPDATE

The Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update landed in June of 2021. It entailed an algorithm created to break down language barriers and improve search experiences. This was a much more powerful tool, compared to less impactful updates like BERT. It not only understands language, but it also generates the language itself. The update also emphasizes video, audio, and image content. It will help Google gain deeper insights and find more useful information for user searches.

THE HELPFUL CONTENT UPDATE

In August 2022, Google launched the ‘helpful content’ update. Like the previous updates, this update is also about improving the usability of Google as a platform. In addition, this update was intended to better connect people with helpful information.

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“The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

Google about the update

This already says a lot about the intent of the update and the importance of valuable content to Google. For this reason, many websites that were already doing a good job of producing valuable content were “safe” when this update hit.

Are you in doubt about whether your content is valuable enough? If so, take a look at these questions that google has put together, to make sure your content is “update proof.”

Helpful questions from Google to answer for your business:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

SEE, THINK AND CARE

The ‘see, think, care and do’ model is widely used in the marketing world as a guide to the customer’s stages. In conjunction with the new update, it is important that you are aware of a new shift in the intention of written content.

  • The SEE phase (awareness)
  • The THINK phase (orientation)
  • The DO phase (purchase)
  • The CARE phase (build a connection with the buyer)

Many people still write content with the “think and do” intention or in the “see and care” phase, but the conclusions still have commercial intentions. Due to the commercial intent of many websites, the helpful content update has caused a shift here. Content ranks better when the text is literally “helpful” and valuable. So be sure to refresh your old content with this “new” intent, if you haven’t already. By using long-tail keywords, combined with the new intent, you can reap many SEO benefits in the coming year!

google-updates-analytics
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“Many websites have content written in the form of the “think and do” phase. These were written for commercial purposes. With the introduction of the helpful content update, it is increasingly important to focus content on providing value: see, think and care phases. Let’s say, you’re selling sofas, don’t just talk about which sofa is the best, but also address questions such as, ‘Which interior items will go best with this sofa (see)? Or answer questions about how you should maintain the sofa (care).”

Pim Razenberg, SEO expert

What is helpful content?

  • Content that is made for the audience (helpful and valuable)
  • Content that answers searchers’ queries
  • Content written with expertise
  • Content that adds something new like facts, perspectives, or answers to questions
  • Content that responds to the phases: “see, think and care”

HOW DO THESE GOOGLE UPDATES AFFECT YOUR SEO?

Are you still stuffing your pages full of unnatural-looking keyword-variations? Then it’s about time that you stop those outdated practices, don’t you think? Simply make sure your content looks natural, includes the keywords (without stuffing), and has proper research behind it; and the content will do the ranking for you. With the MUM-update, we also see that Google is starting to focus on scanning content like videos and images. When you write content that makes the audience feel like their imagination is being sparked, and they feel very well serviced, then you know you’re well on track!

Now, you’re probably wondering how you can make sure that your content refresh has an impact in terms of SEO. Well, there is a very simple trick for that! It’s called: E-A-T. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with food, but it does have to do with increasing your SEO score, which means plenty of reasons to continue reading! Let’s quickly dive deeper into it, with some knowledge you can immediately put into practice!

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“I think the trick is to not get stressed by these Google updates. If you abide by Google’s core rules and guidelines, the chance of getting hit by a Google update is really low. Also, we see Google dole out less and less penalties for bad behavior. These days, sometimes it simply chooses to ignore signals that are (in their eyes) not right. Regarding to keeping up with the updates, I suggest you follow some great SEO people like Aleyda Solis or Lilly Ray on Twitter, also websites like Search Engine Land offer a lot of insights. Lastly, the Twitter account of Google is smart to follow, where they do announcements about Google updates.”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO

WHAT IS E-E-A-T?

At the end of 2022, Google updated the E-A-T guidelines. An additional E has been added, which stands for “experience.” But why was this extra update necessary? Let’s start with a brief explanation of where it started: the E-A-T guidelines. E-A-T is part of Google’s algorithm and is included in its search quality evaluator guidelines. This guideline tells Google whether your content is valuable to readers and if it should rank well (or not…).  We hear you asking:

But what in the world do these terms actually relate to?

The new E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness: 

  • The experience of: the content creator 
  • The expertise of: the content creator.
  • The authoritativeness of: the content creator, the content itself, and the website.
  • The trustworthiness of: the content creator, the content itself, and the website.

Google’s updated guidelines say this about E-E-A-T:

“Consider the extent to which the content creator has the necessary first-hand or life experience for the topic. Many types of pages are trustworthy and achieve their purpose well when they are created by people with a lot of personal experience. For example, which would you trust: a product review by someone who has personally used the product or a “review” by someone who has not?”

What we can conclude from this is that Google increasingly values sites where the content creator has built up experience in his or her field. Therefore, experience is also indirectly linked to building high-quality links that refer to you as a content creator or to the website. Digital PR and link building are strategies that can no longer be lacking to accomplish this. If you have little or just a lot of experience, in all cases these strategies are designed to build authority and can help tremendously to rank high on all E-E-A-T aspects of the guidelines. In addition, including the author’s name on your website and paying more attention to the author’s experience is very important. 

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“I expect Google to broaden and expand its Google E-A-T policy. That means websites will have to put more effort into demonstrating who is behind the content and what his/her level of authority is.”

Dennis Akkerman, CEO

With this in mind, we can move on to applying the E-E-A-T rules in optimizing your content. For this, you can use the following steps:

Step 1: Take a good look at your competitors. Analyze what important topics they are talking about and in what ways you can use and improve upon their content in your own unique way. For example, are there specific niche topics they haven’t talked about yet? Particularly, consider how you can answer the “people also ask” category better than your competitors do.

Step 2: Create content regularly and keep the content up to date. Implement new facts, new research, or possibly trends going on.

Step 3: Find ways to make yourself as a content creator and your website more trustworthy. These may include author profiles, links to your website/name through other trustworthy platforms, and certificates/trademarks showing that the products you sell are trustworthy. But also remember, that being consistently updating your website and adapting to Google’s updates and the latest security standards are also factors that strongly signal reliability.

Step 4: Strong and detailed reviews from happy customers are also a highly important indicator for Google. So, maybe it’s time to open up your mailbox and send out a survey, to ask your customers for some feedback for the coming year.

Step 5: Take a look at the images or other media you have implemented on your website. It’s okay to take a critical look at this to see if this content still meets today’s quality standards. As with copywriting, this also applies to the need for your images to sell your brand in a good way.

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“Include a content plan based on long-tail keywords for the coming year in your strategy. If you do this at the beginning of the year, you will have plenty of topics to write content about throughout the year.”

Pim Razenberg, SEO expert

ENRICH YOUR CONTENT WITH TECHNICAL SEO

In addition to optimizing content, there are a few other aspects that will make your strategy ready and up to par for 2023. Take a look at the following pointers, to make sure you’re completely ready to get started!

Featured snippets

These are text snippets that appear at the top of Google search results (the 0-position). They provide users with quick answers to their search queries. Featured snippets are more likely to appear when users enter information-rich searches to answer questions from searchers. So this means you can earn a spot at the top through content writing. How cool is that! Make sure you claim this spot in 2023 with your content by writing answers to searchers’ questions!

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“Make sure your content is valuable in answering questions. Write compact and individual sentences in your text, by doing this you’ll have a higher chance of being shown in the featured snippets.”

Pim Razenberg, SEO expert

Rich snippets

Rich Snippets are search results from Google that display extra data. This additional data is usually derived from structured data in a page’s HTML. The rich results add visual interest, more information, and greater utility for searchers. Some common types of Rich Snippets include:

  • Organization
  • Music
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Product Markup
  • Top stories
  • Video
  • Events

There are probably some from this list that you can add as structured data. So put the following in capital letters on your to-do list: add structured data into my strategy for 2023! Rich snippets are going to make your website look trustworthy, which is not only a ranking factor, but also extremely important for your click-through-rate.

Get ready for 2023

With this information and tips from our experts, we hope to have you well-oriented toward 2023! Apply the steps to your strategy so that this year you are ready to meet the goals that might help you to finally rank on the top page of Google!

Link building and SEO

Last but not least, an important element of your strategy: is link building.

Why is it important to combine Link building with SEO?

The purpose of link building is to improve your search engine rankings for specific keywords. The number of links referring from other Websites to your Website is called your link profile. The value of those other websites plays an important role in the process to rank better in the Search Engine. Combined with the longer-term SEO content plan, backlinks can help you achieve authority faster. But you should still be careful, using backlinks in combination with SEO only works if it’s done properly and by using high-quality backlinks.

A quick summary

Now we’ve come to the final part! A little summary of the important steps you must not forget to get your website ready for 2023. Thank you for your patience with reading this guide, we wish you a prosperous and happy 2023!

A quick summary of what you should do:

  • Make sure all the technical basics are on point by using the SEO checklist in the guide;
  • Use good SEO tools to make sure you get the best results;
  • Focus on writing valuable content, by making sure you also use “the see and care” intention;
  • Follow the steps in the guide to apply the E-A-T rule to your content;
  • Include a content plan based on long-tail keywords for the coming year in your strategy;
  • Write content that answers important questions of your audience;
  • Add structured data into your strategy for 2023;
  • Use Link building in combination with SEO
Isabella Hiddink